This is How You Lose Her Summary and Study Guide

Junot Diaz

This is How You Lose Her

  • 35-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 9 story summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a college professor with an MFA in Creative Writing
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This is How You Lose Her Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 35-page guide for “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz includes detailed story summaries and analysis covering 9 stories, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Madonna-Whore Complex and Hypermasculinity.

Plot Summary

This Is How You Lose Her is the third book by Junot Diaz, and his second story collection. The book is comprised of nine stories, eight of which feature the same narrator, Yunior, and core characters that include his mother, his father, and his brother, Rafa. Each story is discussed below, and in chronological order, as opposed to the order they are presented in the collection.

“Invierno”introduces the reader to Yunior, who has come to live in New Jersey around age seven. Yunior, Rafa and Mami have just arrived from the Dominican Republic and are reunited with Papi, their father, who has been working in the US and sent for them after five years apart. It’s clear from the first sentence that Yunior is not happy with Papi, who is indifferent to his family, and mean and intolerant with the boys. One night, there’s a snowstorm and Yunior and Rafa chase Mami outside in the snow. There, they see the landfill and the ocean for the first time. This is the only story that features Papi.

Chronologically,“Nilda” is next. Yunior is about fourteen years old and his brother Rafa is having sex with fifteen-year-old Nilda, in the bedroom the two brothers share. Yunior, a comics fan, has a crush on Nilda, who doesn’t have a stable home or loving parent, and Rafa is a womanizer. They date just one summer. Yunior runs into Nilda at the Laundromat when he is twenty-three. She is missing teeth and pudgier, and while he still imagines running away with her, they part ways and lose contact.

In “The Pura Principle,”Yunior is approximately sixteen and struggling with his older brother Rafa’s cancer. Neither he nor Mami can control the rebellious Rafa, who takes a job and gets attached to a recently-immigrated Dominican girl named Pura. Rafa is amused by how agitated Mami is by Pura and gets married to Pura unannounced. Mami throws him out. Rafa returns and steals the TV and mattresses. Yunior, finally stronger than the ailing Rafa, stops him from stealing money from Mami’s hidden stash. Rafa promises to get him. When Rafa falls ill again, Pura asks for money and disappears. When Rafa is finally home from the hospital, he never mentions Pura again. One day Yunior is knocked unconscious while walking home. He later discovers it was Rafa who threw a rock at his head from his window, as payback.

While grieving for Rafa, who has died, Yunior’s finds himself attracted to a much older woman in the story titled “Miss Lora.” Yunior carries on his secret affair with Miss Lora for years. It starts while Yunior is dating Paloma, who won’t have sex with him. He mentions Miss Lora likes Yunior. Paloma calls her a “disgusting old hag.” Yunior becomes obsessed with Miss Lora, who is uninhibited and mature. She gets a job at his high school teaching and one day the gymnasts convince her to show off, so she does a perfect back flip. He’s impressed. Eventually he goes onto college. He continues to see Miss Lora at times, but he is embarrassed by their age difference and the relationship ultimately ends.

In the story “Alma,” Alma is Yunior’s college girlfriend who is an artist and sexually adventurous. She masturbates in front of him. One day he drives up in her Saturn to find her waiting with his journal, where he’s detailed his sexual affairs. She curses him out. He picks up the journal and claims the entries are part of a novel he is working on. This lie ends the relationship.

Yunior dates a skinny “whitetrash” girl named Veronica, whom he calls Flaca, in the story “Flaca.” They are in the same Joyce class in college. Yunior only calls Flaca when he has no one else and then she offers to come over. Their relationship continues in this manner for two years. They go to the bookstore together. They go to a beach called Spruce Run. He watches her in the water. After Flaca tells Yunior that she loves him, the two never speak again.

In “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” Yunior has a “good girl” girlfriend named Magda who hyperventilates when she receives a letter from Cassandra, detailing her affair with Yunior. Yunior takes Magda to Santo Domingo for vacation and to repair the relationship. Guys hit on her every time he turns his back and he blows up at one. Even while there, he is flirting and scheming with other women. He gets drunk and goes out to the Cave of the Jagua. Two wealthy men he just metlower him headfirst into the cave. In the darkness he has visions that his relationship is over. When he returns to the hotel, Magda iscrying and wants to leave. Yunior attempts to convince her the relationship can continue on.

Finally, in“The Cheater’s Guide to Love,”Yunior is a tenured Ivy League professor and his fiancée reads his old emails and discovers he cheated on her with fifty women over six years. He takes her on vacation, but she just walks on the beach alone. Eventually she cuts ties and he moves to Boston, which he hates. Yunior, who is Dominican and regularly refers to non-Anglos—including himself—as “niggers,” has many racial confrontations with whites in Boston. He tries to find a new girl, but nothing works out. A young law student uses him to take care of her while she’s pregnant by lying and saying Yunior is the father of the child,then revealing the child is not his when it’s born. Yunior travels to the Dominican Republic with his friend Elvis. Elvis is excited that he has a toddler son, kept secret from his family. But at Yunior’s insistence, a paternity test reveals the boy is not his child. Yunior finally reads the book his ex-fiancée mailed to him five years earlier. In the book, Yunior is confronted with his deceit and feels ashamed. This ultimately leads to him writing more.

The only story not narrated by Yunior is “Otravida, Otravez.” This story is narrated by Yasmin, a Dominican woman who works in a hospital laundry room and starts a family with a man who left his wife and son in the Dominican Republic. She has anxiety about his two worlds and secretly reads the letters from his wife. Although they move in together, she allows his other relationship to continue.

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